Congress Restricting Access to U.S. Capitol for Holiday Concerts

Overcrowding and alcohol-fueled parties inside the U.S. Capitol are forcing Capitol Police to enforce big changes for the Memorial Day and Fourth of July concerts.

A letter from the Senate sergeant at arms, the architect of the Capitol and the Capitol Police chief warns congressional leadership of possible security threats during the annual events and possible embarrassment for Congress.

The Memorial Day and Fourth of July concerts have been drawing crowds of tens of thousands for years. While the majority of the public watches from the West Lawn and the National Mall.

Members of Congress, their staff and guests have been able to watch the concerts and fireworks from private terraces and then enjoy a private party inside Statuary Hall.

The letter warns the crowds on the terraces and in the hall are getting too big, making it virtually impossible to control in case an evacuation would be necessary.

Capitol Police also say congressional staff and their guests have been bringing bags and coolers with liquid into the Capitol, and multiple sources tell News4 the liquid referred to is alcohol.

The concerts have become costly, as well. Last year, Capitol Police racked up 12,174 hours of overtime on just those two events at a cost of $735,252 to taxpayers.

Congressional leaders announced Monday they will restrict access to the Capitol for future concerts. The changes mean no more parties in Statuary Hall and the terraces will be restricted to select members of Congress.

"That essentially is excluding the public," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said. "I am not much interested in members of the staff being able to get in, but I recognize that the public can't get in without members of the staff."

Invited wounded warriors will still be allowed to watch the concerts from the terraces.

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